While collectively we’ve long understood the importance of kids being active, the more our rhythm of life is filtered through a screen the more difficult it is to encourage kids to be active, especially if they’ve no inclination toward physical activity. For parents, getting their kids to be more active can prove a tricky sell, and one that can easily backfire if they don’t approach it the right way.
This isn’t to say it’s a lost cause, though. Say your little one has outgrown the plastic motorbike they rode with ease and now needs a 12 inch bike to continue the adventure? With the right steps and the right encouragement, your kid can embrace a more active life without giving it thought. And to help you encourage your kid to be more active, here are six simple steps.
1. Age is Key
Before you rush out and buy your kid a heap of active toys or start signing them up to a bunch of after-school activities, remember to take note of their age. This might seem obvious, but it can mean the difference between them embracing physical activity or not.
For example, if your kid has just left preschool, having them join the local junior footy club may not be the right choice as they might find the rules and defined individual roles overwhelming. Instead, take them to the park and start teaching them the basics of footy, such as catching and kicking, so that when they’re older they’ll have a better idea of what’s expected.
2. Pay Attention To What They Like
Again, this might seem obvious, but it’s vital you pay attention to what your kid likes to do, as well as what they show a natural affinity for. That way, you are better placed to encourage physical activities that speak to their talents and abilities. If your kid isn’t naturally drawn toward physical activity, encouraging them to do things that they struggle with might make them feel disheartened, so it’s important to choose activities that make them feel as though they are making progress right from the start.
And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. If your kid performs well academically, you might find they’ll enjoy an activity like rock climbing, which is as much problem solving as it is a physical activity.
3. Make Sure They Have The Time
Another crucial element in getting your kid to be more active is to make sure you supply the time for them to be more active. If their afternoons are stuffed with things like homework sessions and musical lessons, you’ll quickly find they won’t have the physical or mental energy for anything more.
The trick is to strike a good balance through the week between academic and physical pursuits. The weekends, of course, are a wonderful time for kids to be active, but be careful not to map-out your kid’s weekend in advance. Kids need spontaneity in their lives, and after a week of having to do certain things at certain times, they need the chance to be free, no matter what they consider freedom.
4. Be A Fair Negotiator
If your kid has a particular distaste for physical activity, then you have your work cut out. But rather than give up or, worse, force them to participate in things they hate, sit down with them and explain the situation. Kids are smart, much smarter than they often get credit for, and if they realise that you’re talking down to them, they’re less likely to respond to your attempts to encourage them to exercise.
If you’re honest about how they can benefit from being active, and are fair with how you propose they fit physical activity into their life, it’s likely they’ll respond positively. It’s also important to set limits when it comes to things like screen time.
5. Get Involved
A good way to encourage your kid to be more active is to be active yourself. Kids love role models, whether they like to admit it or not, and if they see you enjoying yourself being active, it’s more likely they’ll want to join. Things like going to the beach or going for a bicycle ride or even taking a yoga class together might prove the catalyst for them to wholly embrace physical activity. And it won’t just be a benefit to them; families who exercise together are happier and healthier families—both physically and mentally— as a result.
6. Enforce Fun Rules
We’ve left the best till last. And when we say best we mean the most important, by some distance. If there is only one thing you get right when you are encouraging your kid to be active, it is to make sure whatever you encourage them to do is fun. For kids, activities fall into one of two categories: boring or fun. It’s brutal, but true. If the activity you suggest doesn’t register on their funometer, then we’re sorry, they ain’t gonna be interested.
Again, this comes back to paying attention to what they like. If there is something they are particularly drawn to that is fun, make sure they get plenty of time to enjoy it. Not only will it help their mental wellbeing, but it will open their mind to trying other fun things. And if you discover an activity they find fun that also teaches them things, then you’ve struck gold.
In the end, there is no right or wrong way to encourage your kid to be active. If you at least follow these steps, though, you give yourself the best chance of getting them to become more active. Everyone is different, which means there is no one-size-fits-all formula for things like this. If you’re honest, and firm, and creative about it, though, there’s a wonderful chance your kid will embrace your encouragement.